The ages of 18-24 are often called the missing years. This is the time period where many of our young people leave home for universities and colleges. For many in this demographic, this is the first time in their lives they can miss church without getting that nagging parental reprimand. This is also the age-group where many would leave the faith. As a result, few ever come back until years of sinful rebellion have tainted their view of God and the Gospel. And many of our colleges, Christian or otherwise, are not only not helping but they serve more paganized opportunities to pilfer their faiths. This is why movies like "God is Not Dead" (released in March) is a "must-see." The story revolves around a college freshman by the name of Josh Wheaton (played by Shane Harper) who enrolls in a philosophy class taught by an infamous dictatorial Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). In order for each student to pass the class, they have to sign the declaration that "God's Dead." Josh refuses and he goes all the way to defend his faith. However, with his grades, reputation and his relation to other students at stake, Josh engages in a series of debates with the professor.
The reasons why this movie is mandatory viewing for every Christian is twofold: first, this movie will give affirmation to many of our young adults that it's not uncool to take a stand for Jesus. Just because Christians are in the minority, it doesn't mean it's plebeian; something to be sneered at. Second, Christianity is not a clutch for the unthinking. The Christian faith in fact invites scrutiny; it can be examined, questioned and tried. And like it will still come out strong, reliable and trustworthy. These are two themes run right through the movie and its ensuing soundtrack. Released by Inpop Records, save for two and a half songs, the rest of the seven songs have been scouted from albums already released by the label. The two songs exclusive to this soundtrack include "Hold You Up" (Shane Harper) and the closing instrumental theme song. The "half" refers to a new movie version of Newsboy's 2011 "God's Not Dead."
So, let's start with the previously unreleased tracks first. Shane Harper doesn't just play lead actor in the movie. He also has the privileged of inaugurating the soundtrack with its vanguard single "Hold You Up." With a folky acoustic driven melody that gives way into an explosive chorus, "Hold You Up" offers hope to those who feel oppressed: "'demons will harm you and try to steal what you know. But the angels, they brought you, and they're gonna hold you up." The movie version of the Newsboys' "God's Not Dead" features some acerbic dialogue of the debates between Josh and Professor Radisson dubbed over the original tune. Written by Daniel Bashta, "God's Not Dead" is a stellar example of how apologetics (such as arguments that affirm God's existence) serves not to satisfy our intellectual curiosity. Rather, it serves to lead us into more heartfelt worship. While the album's concluding track "Excerpts from the Original Score" is a piecing together of the various instrumental music used in a movie; something to give fans a sonic monument to take home after seeing the movie.
Of the remaining seven previously released cuts: Tricia's "What I Know" is most appropriate for the movie. Scantily clad with just a piano and Tricia's piercing soprano, "What I Know" is a stunning apology for God's existence done with passion and heart. In the same lyrical trajectory is Jimmy Needham's piquant "Arrows." Needham deftly reminds us that an orphan's stare or the oceans wide or our star-filled skies are not ends in themselves. Rather, they are actually "arrows" that point us to the Creator. On the other hand, Superchick ("This is the Time") and Stellar Kart ("Ones and Zeros") remind us that it's not enough to keep our convictions private. Rather, like Josh who risked everything to make a stance for God, we too are called to make a difference for our Savior.